– Feature Article – Pining for a Derby Track
– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase
Pining for a Derby Track
by Steve Smith
Every year when derby season comes around, scout packs that don’t own a Pinewood Derby track think, “Should we buy or keep borrowing?” After years of borrowing a derby track or begging to use a track after another pack used theirs, we decided it was time to buy our own. So, we assembled a three person committee of parents. Our first decision was that no pack money would be used to purchase equipment or to run upcoming derbies. The initial equipment purchase would come from donations, and future derbies would be self sufficient from food sales. Now we needed to raise the money to make the big purchase.
After using various wood tracks we knew we wanted something different. There were always problems with wood tracks in matching up the sections and having lanes clearly faster than others. One year the track was so rough that wheels were cracking and parts were popping off.
After talking to the packs that had plastic and aluminum tracks, it became apparent; the best tracks were made of aluminum, and also carried the largest price tag.
We shopped the Internet to see what was available, and settled on the BestTrack brand. We added a Smart Line timer, encased with aluminum by BestTrack. With our goals on paper, it was time to come up with a fundraising plan.
We decided to ask pack parents to take a corporate donation request letter to their employer and see what those companies would do. We also developed a tier system of donation levels, Green Flag Level was $100, White Flag level was $200, and the Checkered Flag level was $500.
Each level came with different recognitions for the sponsors. The green level received a certificate of donation, the white level received a framed certificate and their company logo on the race banner, while the checkered level received the banner recognition along with a trophy display by BestTrack (a special certificate attached to a small section of aluminum track) and a custom built derby car with their company logo.
The pack parents asked for some incentives for themselves, as several wanted to pitch in a few dollars. We came up with a $50 and a $100 level. All donors received a framed certificate, and the larger donors had their name engraved on a brass plate attached to the track side. Some parents gave $25, and they too received a certificate.
Our plan was to raise funds for one month and then see where we were at. Overall, it took two months to reach our goal of $3,500.
With our money in hand, we placed an order from BestTrack for a six lane, forty foot track with a two foot stopping section, and their six lane timer with race management software. We also purchased an electromagnetic starting gate system. In addition, we bought an SKB storage case (3R2817-10B-CW) from CSN Stores. It’s deep enough for two levels, one for the timer and the other for all the cords. It comes with cubed foam so it looks custom inside, and protects the investment for a long time. To protect the track, one of the pack’s dads built a storage box at no charge.
This month we will hold the grand unveiling when we give the pinewood derby kits to the kids. The track will be all set up and there will be several race cars ready to show off the track and timer.
One of our sponsors was a hobby store, and we have since developed a great relationship. In the spring we will have a race at their store, open to all kids that buy their kit and pay a small entry fee. We will get the fee plus all the proceeds from food and drink sales. The store will get the kit sales, and sales of accessories and supplies needed to build the car. We plan on having a “Best of Show” trophy to encourage more paint, decal, and sandpaper sales. It sounds like a win-win to us.
One of our goals is to reach out to a local hospital with children to do a day of racing, one for those walking or in wheel chairs and one for those that are bed ridden. We will have the scouts build six identically prepared cars (but with different colors) for the kids to race. Ribbons would be awarded to everyone that participates.
I encourage everyone to reach out to their local “Mom and Pop” hobby store and do something similar. Maybe that’s why I like doing business with Maximum Velocity; it’s a Mom and Pop business, and you can talk to the owners any time. In fact, Randy, the owner of Maximum Velocity, gave us several tips to make our fundraising endeavor successful.
Pinewood Derby Car Showcase
Funny Car & Streamliner – Rick Voegelin
These two cars were my entries in the Hell’s Belles Car Club Charity Pinewood Derby. The Belles is an all-female car club in San Francisco, and this year’s annual derby raised more than $1,500 to benefit the Bay Area Women’s and Children’s Center.
At age 60, I decided to race in my first Pinewood Derby. The Belles sell the basic car kits to raise money, and require that entrants use the supplied wood blocks, wheels, and nails. I thought I would put together my cars on a Saturday afternoon, but it quickly turned into a week-long project.
I built a Funny Car inspired by “Jungle Jim” Liberman, the Bay Area’s legendary Funny Car driver; and I built a Streamliner inspired by equal parts Mercedes W196 and Don Garlits’ dragster. I used a full complement of Maximum Velocity parts and information. The bodies were painted with Tamiya lacquer and clear coated with Duplicolor. A plastic model kit donated a supercharger and injector for the Funny Car.
The Funny Car was the overall winner, and the Streamliner was awarded Best in Show. The Streamliner was a little quicker, but when my cars raced each other in the semi-final round, the Streamline scrubbed off just a bit of speed on the bumps.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable project, to turn a block of wood into a race car, and I’m already planning my entries for next year’s Hell’s Belles Pinewood Derby race.
Vaccinator – Stephen Davis
This is the prototype of our Vaccinator kit, which was designed by my son, Stephen, and raced in the Outlaw division in our local race held in April of this year. The car ran on X-Lite Needle Axle Outlaw Wheels (white version that were dyed yellow – white wheels are a special order item). The tungsten canopy was painted black, and yellow pin-striping was used for the accent stripe.
Thanks in part to the X-Lite Needle Axle Outlaw Wheels, the Vaccinator easily won every heat to take first place.
For the first time, we would like to hold a pinewood derby clinic for our pack. At the clinic we would go over some basic information on how to make a pinewood derby car. Is there anything you could suggest we do to make this a successful event?
Do you want the clinic to be a presentation, a demonstration, or a hands on event?
If you plan to do a presentation, there are a few Powerpoint presentations posted on the web. Just do a Google search and you will find them. This type of event can be pretty boring unless you have a very charismatic presenter.
A demonstration is better. You basically build a car from start to finish within the allotted time. To make this happen, you would need to pre-build a particular car design to various stages – you may need five or more car bodies at different levels of completion. Then show how to do each step, but don’t complete each step (takes too much time, and is boring!). Make sure to have the key tools and supplies, and show how to use them (mandrel and sandpaper for wheels, graphite lube, mini-file and axle polishing kit for axles, weight types, etc).
The third option is a hands on event. You would set up a shop with different stations (design, cut out, drilling, sanding, wheel station, axle station, lube station, weigh station), and then assign people to assist at each station. Then let the scouts/parents build their car, with the assistance of the helpers. This is the most complicated type of event, but makes sure that every participant has the opportunity to use tools and get some assistance.
Is Krytox 100 affected by temperature? I had read something online that indicated that lower temperatures (how low I’m not sure) may adversely affect performance. Have you ever heard about this?
With any oil lube, a lower temperature can affect performance (it tends to get thicker). As long as you keep the car at room temperature it will be fine. If you have to transport the car and it gets cold, just make sure it has some time to warm up to room temperature before the event.
Do you have a pinewood derby-related question? If so, e-mail us your question.We answer all questions by e-mail, but not every question will appear in the Q&A section of the newsletter.
Are you a new subscriber, or have you missed some of the previous newsletters? Don’t miss out; all of the issues for Volume 5 through Volume 17 are posted on our web site.
We welcome your contributions. If you would like to contribute an article, a web site review, a speed tip, or a pinewood derby memory, please e-mail us.
The Pinewood Derby Times is a free e-newsletter focused on pinewood derby racing. It is published biweekly from October through March.
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